“Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.
This is the quote that is the most shared every time a black person becomes a hashtag because of police brutality. As black folks shout and march in outrage, this MLK is shared en masse, as the great pacifier against black rage. A reminder to let us know that our anger is unjustified, we must instead be abundant with love as a response to our state sanctioned murders. Love is is the answer to driving out hate. I absolutely agree. But I want to know, what does love look like to you, as the oppressor?
Welcome to day 4 of #31daysofselfcompassion.
The theme is Love (part 2)
I reflect on this quote as I think about people who say love is the answer, in response to the anger of marginalized communities fed up with oppression. As the person on the other side of the oppression, what does it really mean to use love as the answer to oppression when you have never cared enough to hear the outcry, when you have never cared enough to examine the ways in which you are complicit in a system that suffocates the marginalized?
Where is your love when trans women are murdered?
Where is your love when a man kills his sister because he believes she is not respectable? Where is your love when black people have to spend an absurd amount of energy proving that their humanity matters enough for your outcry when they are murdered?
Where is your love when people tell you how you are hurting them and you say they’re just overreacting?
What is this love you speak of, as the answer to social injustice? How does it manifest in your life as you reflect on the suffering we inflict on one another?
What does it mean to you, to love people in marginalized communities when you are unable to listen when they tell you how they want to be loved, how to they want to stay alive, how they want to thrive?
what does it truly look like, if we use love as a political strategy? Here are 4 things you can do:
- Learn to become a better listener. Know that people are the experts of their own experience, so you don’t get to decide for a marginalized group what is best for them. You don’t get to decide for fat people how they should be treated as human beings. You don’t get to decide for black people what grief and outrage looks like. You don’t get to decide for a woman what she needs to do to not experience sexual violence. You don’t get to decide what trans folks must do to stay alive. Instead, learn to listen, listen to understand, understand so you can be better in helping.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. For too many of us, we don’t know how to love. Because love requires facing the ugliest parts of ourselves. The parts of us that suffocate the well-being of others. Loving others requires that we come to terms with the ways in which we are complicit in an oppressive system, and that’s never fun. But we have to get comfortable with the discomfort of being called out. It will make you like you are being attacked, and you will take it personally. You should. You must. We have to feel personally responsible for the atrocities we inflict on one another, none of us are free unless all of us are free.
- Solidarity. If you truly believe that love is the answer to driving out hate, join the voice of the marginalized in ending their oppression. Denounce police brutality. Add your voice speaking out against transfer murders. Talk to other men about the violence of sexism. Stand up for the respect of all women, not just those you deem respectable enough. Always respect consent. Make your media and buildings disability accessible.
- Put your money where your love is. If like me you often feel helpless when you witness injustice everywhere? Seek others who are already doing the work and support them with your dollars. Buy from their businesses, donate to their organizations, donate to the individual activists whose work you share and retweet on social media, anything you can do to support those already doing the hard work of dismantling an oppressive system.
Love as a political strategy is absolutely possible, but it isn’t as rosy and safe as your favorite MLK quote. It’s messy, uncomfortable, exhausting, and sometimes will make you feel ashamed when you realize you are one of the villains. Love requires of you that you learn to love people on their terms, in a way that makes room for them, that frees them.
How are you going to love today?
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.